The Leader Who Led Kashmir Into A Wasted Space
Geelani’s Story Is Of A Life And Leadership Wasting 30 Years Of A Region
Hardcore separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani died at his home in Srinagar at the age of 92. He passed away after a lengthy illness. His politics of separatism, advocacy of a pro-Pakistan position, open callouts for hartals which shut the valley for months, hostility to the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits, and either active complicity or passive approval of violence extracted a heavy cost upon Kashmir.
Geelani died on September 1. September 3 witnessed huge crowds in various parts of Kashmir, engaged in peaceful observation on the 24th day of Muharram. It brought home a stark truth. Geelani and his ideology were long irrelevant in Kashmir. Pak agencies leaved no stone unturned to instigate people to come out and protest but no reactions were observed. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan declared a day of official mourning on the demise of the separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who had popularized the slogan Hum Pakistani Hai, Pakistan Humara Hai. The official mourning in Pakistan was meaningless back home in Kashmir. Geelani had refused Nishan-E-Pakistan in 2020 when he saw his grip weakening over the Hurriyat conference chapter in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. In his last years before he slipped into dementia, he was disillusioned with Pakistan.
Towards The End, Geelani Realized Pakistan Had Used Him
At the fag end of his life, Geelani realized how empty and corrupt the so-called movement for the liberation of Kashmir was, and how Pakistan had used him to further its agenda. Geelani had accused Pakistan of using drug as a weapon in Kashmir and had quit the Hurriyat in June 2020.
Some called Geelani the man who fought for Kashmir’s freedom. This was wrong. Geelani fought only for Pakistan. For decades this simple fact has remained covered in the smokescreen of emotionally attractive “freedom”. Pakistan’s strategic assets were quick to respond by paying their condolences on social media to the Hurriyat leader. They failed to highlight the loss of lives and destruction caused by Geelani’s narrow worldview. Soon after Geelani’s death, his close circle was abuzz with talks of his successor. A section of resistance leadership wanted Masrat Alam to don the mantle, but Geelani’s family didn’t want a non-Syed to take over. Also, a death due to long term illness was termed as murder. Known separatist propaganda handles in Turkey, Pakistan, Europe and US peddled the expected notes.
Due to suspended network, not much was posted or observed from the local population of Kashmir. Pro-Pakistan social media activists tried to make a show of protests in streets following Geelani’s death. But many Kashmiris outside Kashmir, who had suffered because of Geelani, spoke their minds on how a brutal chapter of bloodshed has ended. They brought out the fact that Geelani made life comfortable for his family but put rifles and stones in the hands of Kashmiri people. Pakistan’s social media warriors tried to unleash disinfo ops using Geelani’s death. Firing carried out to prevent infiltrating terrorists was shown as shelling being carried out by India in celebration of Geelani’s death.
The Leader Who Led Kashmir Into A Wasted Space
Geelani was a symbol of how a society gets lucky or unlucky based on the leadership it gets. Kashmir society wasted more than three decades following a leadership with delusion. Geelani’s loyalty to Pakistan was more than to the good of his people and society. Sadly, he realized his folly only when the end was near. His lack of vision led to thousands of deaths and sustained a cycle of violence. Geelani’s most macabre strategy was the Janazy Strategy. It was horrific to see him presiding over the cycle of more and more deaths and justify these to achieve some delusional goal. Geelani invented issues like demographic change, religion under threat, Jagmohan conspiracy etc – anything that could sustain more violence and shedding more Kashmiri blood. Over the last 50 years, he probably has more Kashmiri blood on his hands than any other person.
The Kashmiri nexus played to his Pied Piper dreams. He sold dreams of Azadi while he ensured only Pakistani stooges survived. Very few leaders have such a magical impact on his followers despite their lies. Anyone with a different ideology or a personality who could be a threat to his leadership would either be thrown out or killed. Geelani was like the banyan tree that did not allow any other tree to grow. But there’s more. This banyan was growing on the piles of bodies of Kashmiri youth.
The indifference of Kashmiri youth to Geelani’s Death
The visible fact on the ground is the indifference of Kashmiri youth to the death of Geelani. They have chosen to remain silent and continue their daily life than argue with the creed or generation who still feel emotion for the hardline Pakistani separatist. More than the Kashmiris, the social media figures of Pakistan are discussing Geelani’s death. They want to ignore the fact that he had declined the national honor granted by Imran Khan’s government in refusing the Nishan e Pakistan in 2020. Kashmiri youth don’t care either way. Life will be back to normal in Srinagar including Hyderpora in a day or so – maximum. We need this fact to travel and sink in with the Kashmir watchers.
Geelani – The Symbol Of Failure
Geelani’s story is of life and leadership wasting 30 years of society. He led Kashmir on a garden path of self-delusion and pain. His last few years showed he had realized the errors of his ways. Some Kashmir watchers say Geelani was not a banyan tree, but a near-dead man who was deliberately resurrected and revived. This was when Hurriyat was in tatters and Kashmiris were thinking the violence is over for good.
Kashmiris take sides with winners. When they saw how subservient to Geelani the Indian government was, they assumed he was a big shot. August 5 and onwards have shown that Geelani type of thugs can’t keep the state hostage if the incumbent government doesn’t allow them to. Why do we need a new leader for a “peaceful happy Kashmir”? Is that a subtle warning that “Unless there is a new leader, peaceful happy Kashmir is not possible?”
Take the argument further. Is this another succession plan for Geelani that Mehbooba Mufti will fulfill? This way of cliched thinking must be shunned. Geelani was a gone case. He was deliberately propped up, dignified, and legitimized. Geelani was never a “mass leader” unless we consider the large cadre of Jamaati Islamists as “masses”. Support for Geelani was 1 out of 10 at best. Let’s not record him as a mass leader in history.